Spreading the word about RSS

I taught an RSS workshop about a month ago, and only recently did I think to blog about my experiences. I have been a little overwhelmed the last few weeks, so my blogging has suffered immensely. I have even been so busy that I had to ignore (gasp!!) my aggregator.

This was the second workshop that I have taught on RSS. I taught the first one last April, and while it was open to the entire university community, only about 10 library staff attended. Of those ten staff members, two were from our library systems department. I have to admit that it was pretty cool to teach a couple of our tech guys a thing or two about the latest trend. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the participants of the April class are currently using RSS on a regular basis. I have asked around, and apparently I failed at converting the masses on that occasion.

In my second class, I used the same format as before. I have a blog which gives the outline of the class. I have the class go to the blog, and we go through the various topics. Because the class is taught in one of our teaching labs, the class has the opportunity to get some hands-on experience with aggregators. Together, we walk through how to set up and subscribe to feeds with Sharpreader, FeedDemon, and Bloglines.

On the blog outline I list a variety of sites that have RSS feeds. These range from library-specific blogs like The Shifted Librarian or Library Stuff, news feeds such as CNN and ABC. We also play a game called Find That RSS Feed in which we look at the front page of ESPN.com and try to locate the link to RSS. I have the class subscribe to each of these feeds with the three different aggregators and then look at the feeds. I show them the difference between the full-text feeds of a personal blog (such as The Shifted Librarian) and the headline or teaser feeds of a commercial site (such as Business Week). All of the discussion, hands-on exercises, and questions are more than enough content to fill a two-hour time slot.

I had six people attend this last class, and only two of them were library staff members. I know for a fact that one of those two has been playing with Bloglines a little, so perhaps there is hope for my ability to promote RSS. After the class was over, I had two class members stay late to ask me questions about blogging. We wound up talking for a good half-hour. They had a lot of questions and were really interested in setting up blogs for departmental communication. I told them that this was something we had done, and we discussed the benefits of using blogs for internal communication. I need to check up on those guys, to see if they were also bit by the blogging bug. Perhaps they got hooked on RSS and blogging at the same time. Perhaps they set up a departmental blog, and now everyone in their department is subscribed to the RSS feed. If so, perhaps I need to invite them to teach my next RSS class.